Audi in hyperdrive

One Audi is great. But 17 are even better! We drive the entire range and still come away wanting more…

 

After an early morning wake-up call and a two-hour bus ride from Bengaluru, I was finally fully awake once I set my eyes on the resting fleet of shiny, relatively new Audis. Dubbed as the Audi India Range Drive, it involved getting drive time behind each of Audi’s cars in different settings. The sedans included the A8L, A6 Matrix, A4 and A3 cabriolet on a scenic route that took us from Hosur’s TAAL aerodrome to the nearby Thally Lake along some beautifully surfaced back roads flanked by a canopy of trees.

 

Getting behind the A6 Matrix, it was evident this limo is meant to cocoon its passengers in an uber-quite and comfortable ride, thanks to its air suspension, a first in its segment. The turbo-diesel engine hesitates a little when you put your foot down, but once it’s in motion, it gobbles up the kilometres like a fitness freak going through granola bars.

Outside of Hosur, it was also the perfect weather for some top-down driving and Audi’s A3 cabriolet provided the much-needed respite from the summer wave. Again, the only cabriolet in this price category, the A3’s brilliant 1.8TFSI motor pulls along with a refined growl that just begs you to drive harder and get that grin wider.

Get in queue...

 

Back at the TAAL aerodrome, Audi had set up an intricate off-road course that would test its Q-range of cars and give drivers an idea of how well they tackle the tricky stuff. On call were the Q3, Q5 and the new Q7, as expected. What wasn’t expected was the deftness with which even the smallest quattro-powered SUV managed to clear the obstacles.

Transferring power between the axles and individual wheels effortlessly, the axle-breaker, trench and 32-degree inclines were dismissed with ease, and left passengers gaping in disbelief. In fact, so little is felt inside the cabin that it’s only when you’re standing outside and watching another vehicle going through the exercise, do you realise the true capabilities of these SUVs. Audi’s famed quattro 4WD, a highly evolved system, is an intrinsic part of even the Q3, their most affordable compact SUV.

 

And now, get your bib on...

But as you might have guessed, we were really there to feel the power and make some noise. The entire range of high-performance Audis that are currently on sale in India made an appearance.

From the RS7 and RS6 to the S5 Sportback, they all made their presence felt through rubber on the track and a grin on my face. The RS6 especially, being the country’s first and only estate-form supercar, surprises with its breadth of abilities and, beyond all, a distance-crushing acceleration.

 

The pinnacle of the Audi range, the R8, made its grand debut with none other than superstar cricketer Virat Kohli driving it up on the track along with Audi India CEO, Joe King. Although showcased at the Auto Expo back in January, this was the first time the car was being driven on Indian soil. And the wait was worth it.

An empty airfield and a 1.7km straight meant I was allowed (and urged) to hit top speed. I did manage 260kmph before the marshalls flagged me down, but the brutal acceleration of 3.2secs to a 100kmph reminds you of what’s behind you. The mid-engined supercar boasts of a naturally aspirated V10 that develops a whopping 610hp and 560Nm of torque.

The sound of the exhaust has been much improved over the previous generation and the new steering wheel gets four satellite buttons, one of which activates the sport exhaust.

Yes, that should be marked as ‘wake-up call’, but we’ll take it anyway.

 

 

In the driver’s line of sight is the Audi Virtual Cockpit that we first saw in the TT and more recently on the new Q7. It’s a nicely rendered 12in HD screen that can show performance-based information like torque, power, oil and tyre temperatures, G-forces and lap times. You can toggle between different functions to take up the primary real estate on the screen, like sat-nav, rev counter or media/telephony.

Even the dashboard is reworked, making it more minimal yet appear more high-tech. Detail is superb, the AC control dials now get their dedicated displays right in the middle of the knobs, and there’s an aircraft throttle control-like gear lever and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Not that you’ll ever be needing it with the high-revving V10 singing at its 8200rpm redline behind your ears!

 

Get to the bank…

 

The next-generation Audi R8 V10 Plus is priced at 2.55 crores (ex-showroom Maharashtra) and 2.60 crores (ex-showroom, Karnataka). Audi claims 20 cars have already been pre-booked and it’s not hard to see why.

This is an everyday-use supercar that is as practical as a hatchback, yet able to slay an Italian supercar at the red lights. Can someone please tell us why we’re so poor?